Sophora Root (ku shen)

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Sophora root is the root of sophora flavescens Ait., a hardy deciduous shrub native to China, Japan, Korea and Russia. The shrub can reach a height of approximately five feet, with leaves of various shaves, greenish-yellow flowers, and brown seed pods that contain small seeds. The root, which is used in herbal preparations, ranges between four and 12 inches in length and one-half to an inch in diameter, and is usually brown and curved, with small cracks or ridges on its outer surface. The roots are prepared by bundling them and cutting them cross-wise into slices, then allowing them to dry in the sun.

Sophora root contains a wide range of biologically active components, the most well-known of which is matrine. Laboratory studies have shown that matrine can dilate blood vessels, stabilize some heart arrhythmias and increase cardiac output; however, at large doses, matrine can be toxic. Animal studies suggest that other substances in sophora root can stimulate the nervous system, treat asthma, and slow the degeneration of liver cells and fibrous tissue in the liver.

In doses of 60g/kg had significant effect in treatment of cervical cancer in mice, and an inhibitory affect on sarcoma-180. Used in treatment of acute lymphocytic/granulocytic leukemia, inhibiting dehydrogenase activity and cellular respiration of malignant cells.

The amount of sophora root to be taken depends on the condition being treated. For internal uses, the generally recommended dose is 3-10 grams daily, taken as part of a decoction; however, some practitioners have recommended much higher doses (30-60 grams) to treat arrhythmia. Sophora root is often combined with other herbs as part of a larger formula to treat specific conditions.

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